Marc Wilson: We need to get off on winning streak to trio of of derbies
SOCCER is his profession and his life now, but back in the day, Gaelic Games were a big part of Marc Wilson's upbringing.
One of the first successes in his career was lifting the McDevitt Cup with his school, St Paul's of Lurgan, way back in 2001. And in the past, Wilson has spoken of his regret at missing the chance to play at Croke Park when his primary school were invited there as it would have clashed with a key soccer game.
So, despite the fact that he's been living in England for over a decade, he still has enough grounding in the GAA, especially the Ulster Championship, to have an understanding of sledging and all that goes on between combatants on the field of play.
Seamus Coleman and James McClean
If Wilson were ever to be targeted for 'sledging' by opponents it would be in today's behind-closed-doors game at Lansdowne Road between the Republic (for whom he has played 21 times at senior level) and Northern Ireland (where he was capped at underage level).
The defection issue always strikes a chord at the heart of Northern Ireland football and if the Antrim native ever plays in a full international in Belfast he can expect to get abuse from the home crowd but is Wilson concerned about possible comments coming his way from the Northern Ireland squad today?
"Not at all," he says. "I know a few of their squad, Jonny Evans and I know his brother, Corry, as well, we used to play in the same local team, Lisburn Youth.
"They could do (get some digs in), but at the end of the day, although we want to get a result, the most important thing for us is to get the three points against Scotland."
Most of his Stoke City team-mates are enjoying their summer holidays but so far, Wilson's only had a short break, as he landed up in the unlikely spot of Iceland last week (a former Stoke team-mate has opened a hotel there and Wilson popped over for a look).
But while the main aim is success in the qualifier against Scotland next week, for Wilson the two friendly games, Northern Ireland today and England on Sunday, are important.
"It helps the manager to get a better view of what shape all the guys are in, just get a general base of who he's going to play against Scotland, it gives the manager a good opportunity," he says.
"They will be two competitive matches so all the lads will be looking forward to them, two games we really want to win even though they are friendlies. I think all the lads are very focused."
Defensive work is key for O'Neill ahead of the Scotland tie, as it's a concern that Ireland have kept just one clean sheet (against Gibraltar) in five qualifiers to date, and Wilson, who missed the defeat to Scotland in November due to injury, says it's about communication.
"Communication is very important and if we can get that good communication throughout the back, from the goalkeeper out across the back four, it helps, helps us tremendously and even helps the boys in midfield if us as defenders are talking to them, it's little things," he says.
"It's different to club level. You don't play with the lads week in week out but the more times you play with a person the better understanding you can gain into that person.
"I think we will get a good result, we have a good squad of players, good enough to get a positive result," Wilson claimed.